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The Incomplete Story: Trinamool’s dramatic entry into Meghalaya changes the course of the game

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Shillong, Dec 1: The expression ‘going with the tide’ fits no better than the political ebbs and flows in a democratically charged setup like India as change is inevitable in this dramatic play for power and control. One such drama has just unfolded in Meghalaya with the defection of 12 Congress legislators to All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), rendering the Congress in a significantly weak position with little over one year to go for the state Assembly elections.

Trinamool, though, finds itself in an unexpectedly good position with 12 MLAs to represent it in a state where it is yet to properly test the waters. The last time AITC contested elections in Meghalaya was in the 2018 Assembly elections, almost 14 years after former Lok Sabha Speaker and late PA Sangma won the Tura Lok Sabha seat on Trinamool Congress ticket in 2004. For 14 years, AITC surprisingly did not contest any polls in the state.

Riding the fortunes the right way

With the fortunes favouring the West Bengal based party, the dynamics have also changed in Meghalaya with every party having to recalibrate their calculations for the upcoming Assembly elections.

What benefits the Mamata Banerjee led party is its strong resistance to the BJP wave across the country, making West Bengal a much coveted prize, and Prashant Kishor as the election strategist of Trinamool Congress.

With anti-BJP sentiments always high among the tribals of Meghalaya, the AITC would like to ride this emotion as it has in West Bengal and elsewhere on the anti-BJP, anti-Modi and anti-Congress wave to its advantage.

Mixed reactions

While some parties have taken this as a challenge like the ruling National People’s Party (NPP), others like UDP aren’t too happy with another national party added to the mix.

It is to be noted that Mamata Banerjee is trying to create a non-BJP non-Congress alliance of regional parties to put up an united opposition front to check the raging charge of BJP.

NPP isn’t worried about Trinamool threat

Senior NPP leader and deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong feels “the more the merrier” will work in favour of his party and doesn’t feel much worried with the latest development. “TMC has stepped in our state, so I leave it to the wisdom of the voters of the state. But I personally feel it is a very healthy process and very healthy exercise to each and every citizens of the state,” stated Tynsong.

He feels that the electorates are with the party after seeing how it has dealt with issues of Harijan Colony, boundary issue with Assam among others.

NPP legislator and Health Minister James Sangma termed the question of AITC being a threat or not as ‘rhetoric’. “Whether a person is a threat or party is a threat or not… that is something as political parties we’re always aware of, so to call somebody a threat or dismiss them as not a threat… I think that’s not the right way to go about it,” said Sangma.

UDP wary of Trinamool threat

Meanwhile, UDP leader and Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui feels that too many parties in the fray can have a disruptive effect on the voter base as electorate can get confused.

What he is referring to is the effect of national parties on voters in the state, which historically has seen people having incline to go for national parties over regional parties. At the same time, the smaller parties cannot match the national parties in terms of money power to fund campaigns and attract star campaigners including celebrities.

“Personally, I would say this is a not a good development for the state. In Garo hills region it maybe a threat because they have few options but in Khasi Hills region, it is difficult for people or voters because of several options, so for people in khasi and Jaintia region they will only be confused when there’s too many party,” expressed Rymbui.

The Early Verdict

While it’s early to draw conclusions on the effect of Trinamool becoming a major player in Meghalaya politics, it is a fact that the batch of 12 Congress MLAs that crossed over to AITC are seasoned politicians and a powerhouse as individuals.

Dr. Mukul Sangma – the former chief minister,  and Charles Pyngrope – a former Meghalaya Speaker, hold terrific rallying power and AITC will definitely gain a lot of ground under them.

While Congress has been considerably weakened, a lot will depend on its efforts from here on and shed some light on the capabilities of MPCC chief and Shillong MP Vincent H. Pala, who has otherwise remote-controlled party affairs from New Delhi for over a decade.

At the same time, this also underscores the unpredictability in politics which should make all parties in state to buckle up and up the ante for the coming elections.

While the winner can’t be decided at this juncture, what is certain is that the Assembly polls are going to get lot more interesting and challenging than previously thought.

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